Martin Scorsese and the Order of the Cinema
This being the age of the lack of innocence, of course there exists an outpost on the mean streets of the cyberverse called “Your Favorite Band Sucks.”
Billing itself as “the bravest podcast in the world,” the goodfellas at YFBS expound upon the truism that — regardless of the quality and popular or critical acclaim of a particular group — someone out there hates them.
And not only hates them ... but is ready, willing and able to tell you why you should hate your favorite band as well because, after all, they suck.
Ever since Grunt failed to truly capture the essence of the mastodon he depicted in Earth’s first cave drawing, there have been people standing nearby to point, mock and shake their head.
Which, of course, brings us to Martin Scorsese.
The famed director dipped his toe into the primordial ooze recently by talking about his inability to appreciate movies based off comic book superheroes.
“I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema,” Scorsese told Empire magazine. “Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”
Scorsese since has found himself targeted by a meteor storm of respectful criticism from those who work in the genre — not because of his disinterest in such films, but for his back-handed compliments toward their technical quality, and particularly for declaration that the oeuvre of the assembled Avengers are “not cinema.”
We’ll leave aside the argument that the director — who finally won his well-deserved Oscar for a film that took time out from conveying emotional, psychological experiences to feature Jack Nicholson fiddling about with a prosthetic penis — was claiming such films as “Black Panther,” “Logan” or even the first “Superman” film with Christopher Reeve lack artistic merit, and focus instead on the notion that there’s some cinematic pecking order that must be followed.
Let’s see, most of us have gone to “the movies.” Sometimes, we go to see “a film” or, even, an “art-house film.” But what Scorsese suggests is that superhero “theme parks” — with their reliance on special effects and clear-cut depictions of good and evil — belong to a separate, and artistically lacking, classification of motion picture.
He’s not alone in being wrong about this ... well, I’ll get to that word in a bit.
Television’s Emmy Awards were handed out last month and pointed once again to the sort of bias that speaks to the demarcation lines within popular culture.
In the two major categories, shows seen over the traditional Big Four broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC) received but a single nomination in each — “The Good Place” for Outstanding Comedy Series and “This Is Us” in Outstanding Drama Series. Neither won; in fact it has been since 2014 that a network series (“Modern Family”) won for Comedy, and all the way back to 2006 that such a show (“24”) won in Drama.
As pay-cable and streaming services have dominated the awards season, they’ve also become known as the place for “prestige television” — with movie stars ... oops, film actors ... crossing the once-taboo line between media to star in series that a) allow more mature themes and content, b) have shorter seasons that broadcast series and c) aren’t brought down a peg by the need for commercial breaks.
What this tier-system creates is a self-aggrandizing notion that, should you spend an hour of your week watching “The Masked Singer,” you’re out of step with those whose artistic choices are clearly superior.
Scorsese’s latest, by the way, hits theaters early next month ... before heading onto Netflix. “The Irishman” enters the world of mobsters and union leaders in the days leading to the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, and features a special effects technique designed to de-age its actors — although it doesn’t create the sort of character vs. his younger self on display in that new Will Smith movie you’ve seen the trailers for if you watch anything on TV that still has commercial breaks.
Speaking of commercialism and art, Andy Warhol’s “32 Campbell’s Soup Cans,” presented in 1962, caused an uproar over not only Warhol’s skill as an artist, but the merits of whether there was anything on the canvas at all.
Time magazine sniffed and harrumphed its way to the conclusion that the piece is of a type demonstrating that “a group of painters have come to the common conclusion that the most banal and even vulgar trappings of modern civilization can, when transposed to canvas, become Art.”
Love the capital A, by the way. It’s used in the same manner with which the works of Stephen King or JK Rowling are not considered Literature, or that the earliest forms of rap and hip-hop weren’t considered Music.
Which reminds me of a story: We were in Bloomsbury Books many Quidditch matches ago picking up the newest Harry Potter when a woman standing nearby was overcome with the apparent need to comment.
“I always order those from a bookshop in London,” she said. “I’d rather read them in the original English.”
If you’re still reading this, there’s a phrase that might have come to mind (well, I mean, besides “get to the point”), and it’s one I don’t particularly like ... “elitist attitude.”
See, I don’t particularly mind who favors what sort of genre or art form. I don’t even care if your favorite band does suck. Art, Popular Culture — even Cinema — are there to be appreciated, enjoyed and shared. Romance novels and operas have more in common than we think.
And, for Groot’s sake, there no need to take artistic-merit shots at superhero movies. In in an already overly divided society, hey bring a couple hours respite to millions.
Not me; can’t stand the things ... but then again, I watch “The Masked Singer.”
Mail Tribune copy desk chief Robert Galvin mumbles to himself incessantly at email@example.com